The Twenty Most Frequently Asked Questions about A Rock In My Shoe
1. How did A Rock In My Shoe get started? The website grew out of my initial scribblings and notes for a book that I had for years sworn someday I was going to write. The book was going to be called On A Slow Train To Mineola. If you’ve read Can’t Get No Satisfaction you know that I used to do a reverse commute from Manhattan to Long Island. I disliked the Long Island Rail Road so much that I started carrying in my briefcase a spiral notebook in which I would record my observations and experiences on that “hell-bound train.” Eventually the notebook expanded to other issues besides the LIRR and I started referring to my phantom book as A Rock In My Shoe.
At that time, I was working at the world headquarters of Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc., the How to Win Friends and Influence People training company. As Director of Instruction, I organized a special in-house class of the famous Dale Carnegie Course for all of the company’s employees, including myself.
At the end of the three-month course the instructor challenged each of us to set a personal goal for the future. But not merely to loose five pounds, or to read a new book every year. The new goal was to be directed toward continuing to make the same kind of meaningful changes in our lives that we had already started to achieve while taking the course.
I decided then that one of the things holding me back from writing A Rock In My Shoe was that the goal of a published book just seemed too Herculean—especially for an unpublished author. It would take months just to turn my notes into a manuscript and then more months (or years) to find someone who would publish it. But as the students in my class were setting their goals for the future, I got the brilliant idea that I could publish it myself—on the web. Even if it wasn’t finished, people could start reading chapters right away and, assuming I got some positive feedback, that would spur me on.
I started the site immediately after the class graduated. Over a three-day weekend I read a couple of “dummies and idiots” books on how to build a website and I opened a free account with Yahoo!/Geocities. (This was in 1999, by the way.) By the end of the weekend I had a few crude gray-background pages up. A year or so later I registered the "arockinmyshoe.com" domain name and moved the site to a commercial web-hosting service.
2. That sounds like a commercial for Dale Carnegie. Do they pay you to plug them? Not anymore.
3. What constitutes a “rock” in one’s shoe? As the poet Robert Service said, “It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” A rock in your shoe is an irritation. Life is full of them. But it’s important to make a distinction between what is an irritation and what is merely an annoyance. If you’re on the local train and it stops at every stop, it may be an annoyance, but that’s what it’s supposed to do. If, on the other hand, you’re on the express train and it still stops at every stop—or worse, in between stops—that’s an irritation. It’s an irritation because something or someone screwed up (a rock in your shoe is never your own fault, BTW!). This site is dedicated to examining not only life’s little irritations, but also its bigger ones—the unquestioned rules, the bureaucrats, the hypocrites and the outright lies we are confronted with every day. These are the insidious things that over time worm their way into the very souls of our existence. Like the little stone that gets into your shoe, you try to keep on walking until, finally, when you can’t stand it any longer, you’re forced to stop, take off the shoe and shake the damned thing out. This site is my attempt to shake a few of those stones out of my own shoes.
4. How often is the site updated? Basically, whenever I feel like it. I strive to put something new up at least once a month—either a new “Rock” or a “Rambling.” If I didn’t have anything else to do I would update it daily, or at the very least, weekly.
5. Who is the site’s webmaster?
I do all of the web design and site maintenance myself. Since starting the site I learned to use Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Photoshop as well has how to write rudimentary HTML. But I am not a professional web designer, and don't want to be one. So don’t get on my case if you don’t like the way something looks.
6. How can I get on the Guest Appearances page? * Send an e-mail to me and tell me about your idea or article. The ideal length for a Guest Appearance article is 2000 words, although I’ll consider 1000 or so.
7. Will you pay me for my article? Are you kidding? I will, however, give you a brief byline and you will maintain all rights to your work. If you have a website I will put a link to your site from the article as well.
8. What’s the ARIMS mission statement? There is no mission statement and there never will be one as long as I still have anything to say about it.
9. I heard that you also write for business. Is A Rock In My Shoe representative of the way you always writes? I learned to write in the business world. Of course, most business writing is terrible. But I had a couple of good mentors and over time I learned to leave the jargonese out of my writing and to stop using the passive voice. In my business writing I'm pretty much a stickler for correct grammar and syntax, not to mention political correctness. But with A Rock In My Shoe I really don't give a shit about such things.
10. Did you hear the one about the doctor, the lawyer and the motivational speaker? Yes, but I forgot the punch line.
11. How can I get more specific information about your professional credentials? I mean, like, what if I wanted to hire you? Send me an e-mail and I will get you a resume, videotape or whatever else you need. I may even follow up with a phone call.
12. Can I create a link from my website to A Rock In My Shoe? Yes. You don’t need my permission to do that. Just don’t “encapsulate” A Rock In My Shoe into your site.
13. How can I get my website linked from A Rock In My Shoe? Send an e-mail request along with the URL of your site. If it appears to compliment A Rock In My Shoe, I’ll do it.
14. Can I copy and distribute any of the articles on the site? All writing on the site is copyrighted by me, except for the Guest Appearances. But I'm generous about letting others distribute my work. In fact, some “Rocks” such as “We Apologize for any Inconvenience” are available in Microsoft Word format just for that purpose. So, again, just send me an e-mail with your request.
15. Is it true that you appeared in the movie In Cold Blood? Yes. But don’t blink while watching it.
16. If I make a donation to A Rock In My Shoe can I deduct it as a business expense? First, make the donation. Then pray that the IRS doesn’t audit you. If you get audited, make another donation and pray some more.
17. That's only sixteen questions. You said there we're twenty. Was that a mistake? No, I just thought that "Twenty Most Frequently Asked Questions" had a nice ring to it. And besides, this way I can add three more questions later on without changing the title artwork (it could have been four more before you brought the point up).
* The "Guest Appearances" page is currently not available.